Researching Cargo, or Why I Can’t Sleep Anymore

*Note: I wrote this post about a week ago, before the huge outcry on Facebook regarding the dentist in Minneapolis who killed/slaughtered a tame lion in Africa named Cecil. This is for Cecil.

So I’m researching the latest Leine Basso thriller, Cargo, which has to do with human trafficking, ivory poaching, and various other dark things, when I come across something called canned hunting. For those who have never heard of this practice, canned hunting involves charging apparently crappy hunters upwards of $35-50k for a chance to shoot a real, live African lion.

Now, I’m sure any hunters out there who are reading this are saying, so? You pays your money, you takes your chances, right? The lion has a fair chance of eluding the hunter. Fair’s fair.
Male lion African lion
Um, no.

A “real” lion hunt costs twice that. One where the hunter actually goes into the wilds of Tanzania, tracks the lion with a guide, and then attempts a kill. And no, the hunter is not guaranteed a trophy. (And yes, I know that some prefer to hunt from a helicopter, which I’m pretty sure takes away any advantage a wild creature might have over any hunter. This still makes me shudder, as I’m partial to big, LIVE felines. But I digress.) Besides using lions that have been raised from birth by humans, a canned hunt puts more than one customer with a gun inside a fenced enclosure with a lion.

The emphasis is not because hey, these guys are fenced in with a lion and are in danger, but because there are men with rifles who paid $35,000 each waiting for the lion to move in this contained area so they can kill it. 1 lion + 3-5 hunters with rifles = unbelievably shitty odds for the lion.

Being the inquisitive (okay, maybe the word’s stupid? Naive?) writer that I am, I click on an amateur video recording of one of these hunts in South Africa. It has to be a somewhat humane practice or it wouldn’t be legal, right?

Riiiiight.

As soon as the lion moved, giving up its location, five men armed with high-powered hunting rifles fired every last round in its general direction.

They didn’t hit it. Not once. It was a miracle they didn’t shoot each other in the process.

The big cat exploded out of the grass and headed straight for the closest hunter, lunged at the slow moving, out of shape idiot and wrapped itself around his torso. Even though I knew the end result I felt I owed it to the lion to watch the rest of the video, cheering on the fierce but ultimately doomed feline. In the end, a company employee fired on the cat, killing it instantly. The man it attacked was scratched up and shaken, but alive. You could hear the four other “hunters” guffawing nervously in the background, freaked out that they’d managed to live through such an “ordeal.”

Then they slapped each other on the back for a job well done.

I can’t tell you how furious I was after watching that video (matched only by the anger I felt after watching a documentary on child sex trafficking). The further I researched, the worse the story became. Not only do these companies use human-habituated animals, but the suppliers raise them in so-called petting zoos where tourists pay money to get inside a cage with the cubs in order to play with them.

Yeah. That’s fair.

After writing this, I find that the rage is still there, simmering just beneath the surface, coiled tight and seething. It’s a good thing I wasn’t anywhere near that “hunt,” because I don’t know that I would have been able to stop myself from doing something irrevocable to the assholes who paid $35k for the “privilege” of killing a human-habituated lion, and I’d prefer not to go to prison.

I write about the practice in Cargo, but I didn’t go into this kind of detail, as the book isn’t just about canned hunts. I figured I’d pointed out enough darkness in those pages and needed some balance. People will get the idea.

Like I’ve said before, I gotta write through this shit or it tears me apart.

About dvberkom

Bestselling author of the Kate Jones and Leine Basso thrillers. View all posts by dvberkom

12 responses to “Researching Cargo, or Why I Can’t Sleep Anymore

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